OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

posted by / News / October 2, 2003

Imagine grabbing a perfect, triple overhead South Peak wedge from the frothing crowd at maxing Blacks. You pull into to a throaty, cobalt-blue barrel, but get clipped on the end section. You go under and get impaled by a …metal pole?This scenario may sound absurd, but it might become a reality at Blacks this fall. Scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography have placed large steel tripods underwater throughout the surf zone at the famed beachbreak as a part of a study on sand flow, offshore canyons and beach erosion. According to longtime local Jon Sundt, these structures may be part of a noble experiment, but they’re an accident waiting to happen. “I know of somebody who got his leash tangled on one and I know someone who got his board dinged on one,” says Sundt. “It’s been really small, so imagine what will happen when the surf gets big, somebody could get killed. They’re a diabolical hazard.”

Surfers this weekend are about to find out just how risky the project is as an early season Northwest is expected to fill in on Friday and Saturday. The sketchy situation prompted Sundt to call a meeting on September 30 between prominent locals and Steve Elgar and Scott Jenkins who are scientists involved in the project. Both sides say the meeting went well. “These guys were very receptive to our concerns,” says Sundt. Elgar says that he plans to send a large group of volunteers down to the beach this weekend to educate the surfers about the structures and to better mark them with flags both on the beach and in the water so that surfers can avoid them. “Surfers surf around, rocks, jetties, pier pilings, and they’re good at that, but we don’t want to deliberately stick something in their way,” he says. He also claims that the timetable for removing the tripods has been moved up and they will definitely be gone before the beginning of December. – Jamie Tierney

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